Monday, December 29, 2014

I find your lack of cake disturbing

Thanks to all who helped to celebrate my 37th lap around the sun over the weekend! The food and company were, as usual, stellar. Dinners, silly hats, museums, yoga. Ahhh.

There was no lack of cake, BTW -- gluten-free rules don't apply to birthdays.

(Five points to those who can recite the original Star Wars line....)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

(Rose)mary Christmas

It's true that Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. I mean, seriously: it's cold, those muzak carols have been cranking in department stores since Black Friday, and there's all this commercial pressure to buy, buy, buy.

Bah humbug.

But I've been thinking I need to approach this holiday differently: by bundling up, avoiding department stores, and making some simple but thoughtful (and primarily edible) gifts for friends and family. And embracing the ridiculousness of the seasonal decor....
Check out this rosemary "living wreath." It was so ugly, I had to buy it (though I'd only technically stopped in to buy a bag of lemons). I giggled most of the way back from Whole Foods with it, thinking of edible decorations I could add to this most silly of herbal configurations.

What could complement rosemary better than garlic and hot peppers? Festive, no? And the added bonus is that I'll be all set for lamb marinades in the new year....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Salem Bug Trials

It had been a challenging morning with a particularly loud and distracted group of fourth-graders, but after nearly two hours of garden work, talking and writing about decomposition, and cooking, things were looking up. It was time to eat. As the group sat down to steaming bowls of Thai curry noodle soup -- one of the most delicious dishes you can imagine -- one young upstart called out, "There's a bug in my soup!"

Oh lord.

Suddenly, what was traditionally the most calm part of class -- the eating part -- turned into a modern version of the Salem witch trials: like a wildfire, one student after another shrieked about little blobs floating in their soup until nearly the whole class was in hysterics. Most of the parents tried to calm the 9-year-olds, insisting that what they were seeing were not bugs at all but merely bits of the spices we'd used -- curry powder, cumin, turmeric -- but upon closer inspection, I did see some distinctly insect-like corpses in my own bowl. "Well," I tried to explain, "this is part of what organic gardening is about. We don't use any scary chemicals, so sometimes bugs like to eat our delicious vegetables, too. If it really bothers you, though, just pick out the bugs." Nearby, a couple of boys agreed, "Yeah, it's no big deal. It's part of nature. This is delicious!" And they asked their neighbors if they could finish their uneaten soup. I love having allies, and I slurped my soup right alongside them.

I am sad to report that the vast majority of soup this morning went uneaten, though. Tomorrow, my co-teacher and I decided, we will skip cooking the bug-laden broccoli from our garden, lest another near-riot erupt.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bountiful broccoli

I do love broccoli. I couldn't resist picking up a few heads at the farmers' market a couple of weeks ago. It was just gorgeous, so I bought more than I should have for a person who lives alone and eats a diverse diet. Yes, I was downright brassica rich. After making a couple of batches of my favorite broccoli (with garlic, crushed red pepper, raisins, and almonds), and a couple of stirfries, I still had a few heads of the beautiful green veggie in the fridge. So I went to one of my favorite food blogs, Food52, for some inspiration. And inspiration I found.

I made a few adjustments, of course: more garlic, because the original recipe only called for 2 cloves(!), and the addition of a celery root because I had one and also because it turned out that when I measured it I did not actually have quite as much broccoli as I thought. (Must be those midnight elves who sneak in and eat my produce while I sleep... but who, alas, don't seem inclined to do the dishes while they're in my kitchen.) The result was so delicious, I made another big pot of it the following week, when a canceled class left me with a plethora of extra broccoli. It turned out perfectly again.

Since this recipe is too good not to share, I offer you:

Roasted Broccoli and Celery Root Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets, with stems peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 celeriac, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4-6 cups stock (depends on how thick you want your soup)
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • juice from 1 lemon

Directions

Steam broccoli and celeriac til broccoli turns bright green. Drain well, set aside.

Add the olive oil and garlic to the pot, cook over medium heat for 2 mins, then add the broccoli and celeriac, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cover the pot, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is soft enough that it yields when you press it with the back of a wooden spoon (it may brown a little during this process -- this is a good thing).

Add stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes.

Puree half the soup in a blender or food processor. Stir the puree back into the pot.

Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Don't be a jerk

I've been craving black bean soup like crazy as the temperatures have started dropping to serious winterlike levels, so the other day I started soaking a couple cups of dry black beans. The next day I drained them and started simmering them with a spoonful of ground cumin and ginger (which I had heard helps to reduce the gas these delicious legumes are known to produce) in a fresh batch of water. I drained my softened beans, got out a lime and some more ground cumin, and because I could not for the life of me recall what all else I needed, I called the woman who makes some of the best black bean soup I've had in my life: my mom.

She graciously unearthed the index card, handwritten copy of the recipe that I've been enjoying since middle school, and dictated it to me over the phone. I was surprised at how simple it was: 2 cans of black beans, water, a lime, and Jamaican jerk spice. That's it. Delicious. But I was scandalized. "Jamaican jerk spice?? What about cumin? Cilantro? Chili? At least an onion, right??" Nope. All the flavor comes from the jerk seasoning. What's in that, anyway?

I did just finish a series of FoodPrints lessons teaching 3rd graders to be avid readers of ingredient labels, after all. Yep, it was as I suspected: lots of salt. I could do better than this, I decided. Plus, it was awfully cold outside and I wanted to avoid a trip to the store to purchase my single missing ingredient. I would work with what I had around the kitchen.... The result was delicious (though it will never quite replace my mom's recipe and its plethora of fond memories).

Black Bean Soup (from scratch)
Makes 4-6 servings, depending on how hungry you are

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry black beans, soaked overnight, simmered until soft, then drained
    (you can use 3-4 cans of beans, but they're pricier and less nutritious -- just sayin')*
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (make your own!)
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/2 - 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed then finely minced
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/4 tsp dried)
  • a sprinkle (1/4 tsp?) cayenne
  • a sprinkle of ground nutmeg
  • a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch or two of ground allspice
  • 1-2 tsp tamari (or soy sauce, but I swear tamari is better)
  • juice from 1 lime (2 TBSP, roughly)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • plain greek yogurt (optional), for garnish
  • fresh cilantro (optional), for garnish
  • additional lime wedges, for garnish
Directions

  1. Heat a medium pot with a few glugs of olive oil, then stir in onions and cook over low heat until soft, stirring occasionally so things don't stick too much (5-10 minutes).
  2. Stir in the shallots, garlic, and jalapeno and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat as you stir in the cumin, thyme, cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and tamari,
  4. When these have sizzled for about a minute, stir in most of the beans (I set aside about 1/2 cup) and all of the broth. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, puree the soup, then stir in the remaining beans and the lime juice. Taste, then season with salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves, along with a lime wedge for folks to squeeze in just before eating. I also made some cheddar jalapeno corn muffins because, hey, what is black bean soup without cornbread?
*Check out this previous post for some tips on cooking dry bean.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Are you a worm expert?

It's funny, I've composted at home for a handful of years now, and tried my hand at worm composting at least twice, with mixed success. But to the 1st grade FoodPrints class I was assisting with at SWS this morning, I seemed to be one of the authorities in the room.

"Are you a worm expert?" young Isabelle asked me as she crumbled coconut coir into our homemade, two-level bin. I tore up some more paper bag scraps as I considered this new title.

"Well, I know that worms breathe through their skin," exclaimed her table mate, Evan, "so that makes me kind of an expert!" He had a point.

I wonder what makes someone an expert at anything, really. I mean, I am pretty darn good at changing flat tires. And improvising ways to lash an inordinate amount of stuff to my bicycle. I can prepare a meal out of seemingly incompatible ingredients -- take my chicken, chickpea, peanut, and coconut milk stew I tossed together last week for some personal chef clients: delish!

I suppose by the time I got through working with the fourth group this morning, I was a worm expert. I could talk about slimy skin and a lack of teeth and not letting the bedding get too wet with the best red wiggler authorities out there. Especially if my colleagues are 6 years old.

I can't wait to start a bin with 1st graders at Tyler Elementary in a couple of weeks. Viva la vermiculture!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Had your fill of phyllo?

I have a funny feeling that phyllo dough will play a role in my afterlife somehow: if I end up in heaven, I'll be eating it; if I end up in hell, I'll be cooking with it....

This weekend marked my dad's 80th birthday. (Before you say it, I know he doesn't look anywhere close to 80. But it's true.) The past few days have mainly been spent cooking, eating, drinking, and laughing as a result. As it was a significant milestone --one only turns 40 twice, after all -- I wanted to be sure the food I was preparing was of a significant caliber and volume. So I broke out the recipe from my friend Jenn up in Brooklyn, memories of the flaky cheesy goodness she made for us for dinner one night when I was visiting this summer still lingering in my memory. Doesn't that just look delicious? And in this shot it hadn't even been popped into the oven yet to become crispy, creamy perfection!


Now, I recall phyllo being a bit of a challenge to work with, back when I was making baklava in Mexico. No need to get into the soggy and overly sweet disaster that was that little experiment. Let us just say that I knew not to over-butter each sheet this time.

I honestly think phyllo dough is God's little joke on food lovers. It is so tantalizingly delicious, and so tempting to think that this time one knows what one is doing, and will not make the same mistakes that resulted in the last attempt's imperfections. Keep the dough cool. Keep it moist. Not too moist. Work quickly.... Anyway, despite my best efforts, the brand new, cool but not too cool, barely moistened with a kitchen towel, paper-thin sheets of heaven fractured as soon as I attempted to unroll them. Armed with a glass of wine and no shortage of muttering, I forged ahead, patching the strips together with (you guessed it) plenty of butter. And you know what, it came out just fine. Especially if you pre-slice it before baking.


Spanikopita
Adapted from Jenn's meticulous following of the spinach pie recipe in Amy Sedaris' hilarious cookbook, "I Like You." The changes are mostly due to my failure to read the original directions closely enough, but the result was still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs cooked spinach, excess moisture pressed out by smooshing in a colander
  • 8 oz neufchatel or cream cheese
  • 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 8 oz small curd cottage cheese
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped
  • 1 small bunch dill, chopped (comes to 2-3 TBSP)
  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) of butter, melted
  • 1/2 box (8 oz) phyllo pastry

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy, then add everything else except phyllo and butter. (You can make this filling ahead of time and store for an hour or a day.)
  2. Using a pastry brush, butter a 9" x 13" baking dish.
  3. Line the bottom with one sheet of phyllo (or a bunch of individual strips of it if your day is looking like a phyllo-hell day, but don't worry, it will still work out!). Continue layering -- phyllo, then butter -- until you use about half of the phyllo dough.
  4. Add spinach filling and spread evenly.
  5. Place the remaining phyllo on top, again buttering between each layer.
  6. Pre-cut the spanikopita, cover with foil, and place in the freezer for about an hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Remove foil, baptize the top of the spanikopita with a little water, and bake until brown and crispy (45 minutes to 1 hour). If the top layer of phyllo starts to get too brown, cover with foil.
  9. Enjoy!

p.s.- Dad, in case you are inspired to try your own masterful hand at this recipe , have at it. I left some extra spinach and the other half of the box of phyllo in your freezer. I recommend at least one glass of wine to steady the nerves while working with it. Happy birthday!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

May you have a thousand flats

I said a lot less polite things under my breath the entire bike ride home from school today, my semi-detached rear fender rattling and squealing as I rode with an overloaded pannier filled with cooking supplies for tomorrow's class lashed to Ollie's front rack.

Why? you ask.

Because some... jerk... decided to take my rear bike rack for himself. And took bolt cutters to my fender in the process. In the middle of the day, on a somewhat busy street corner near the Waterfront metro station, from a bicycle -- with both wheels locked, thank god -- right in front of an elementary school. Sure, it's a $30 part, but I feel violated. I mean, who walks around with BOLT CUTTERS that isn't up to something shifty. (I guess nobody.) And I won't have a chance to get to a bike shop to buy another rack for a couple of days due to a packed teaching schedule, so I'll be hauling stuff around in a backpack for the next little while. (Riding home with loaded front panniers was dicey at best. I'm not going to try it during rush hour.)

Some people clearly were unloved as children. I mean, seriously, a rear bike rack -- who does that??

I guess I should be glad that this mouth-breather didn't try to take my front rack as well or I'd have been really up a creek trying to get stuff home. My landlady pointed out that they didn't steal my seat or cut the bike chain. That's something, I guess. I checked the brakes and they seem intact, if in need of adjustment, and they didn't steal the two spare spokes on Ollie or the pedals. That's something. And that something is a low bar.

Bike vandals, I wish the wind in your face as you ride and a thousand flat tires.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I am a professional


But, as I tell my students, everyone messes things up sometimes, too. Life is a learning experience.

I've been canning for about four years now, but until yesterday, I'd never broken a jar. I am, as you might guess from my obsession with equipment sterilization, a bit of a stickler about technique. And yet somehow, I managed yesterday to break not one, not two, not even THREE jars while canning. Four jars. Now in pieces in the recycling bin. Embarrassing, but true. Three perfect pint jars and one beautiful quart of tomatoes exploded over the course of one solo canning session as I rushed to get things wrapped up before heading to a Nats game. I'd poked around the jars with a chopstick before sealing them to clear out any potentially explosive air bubbles. Apparently not well enough.

Some days, you just need to throw in the towel. Or rather, you mop your brow with a kitchen towel and fish out the tender, floating tomato bits in the canning pot and make tomato sauce (with lots of red wine...in the sauce, and also for the person making the sauce) and try again.

Maybe, I thought, it was the equipment. Or maybe, I reconsidered, as the equipment has not changed much since last time I canned tomatoes, my canning mojo was just off. Maybe I needed help.

And help I had. Today, Kenton came over this afternoon. After treating me to a lovely brunch, he assisted me in disposing of the 5 FLATS OF AMAZING HEIRLOOM TOMATOES I picked up from McLeaf's Orchard. A few caprese salads eaten, a few pounds given to my landlady (share the wealth, right?), 24 pint jars of tomatoes cooling, and with 6 jars of (non-explosion-induced) savory tomato sauce processing right now, we're done. The glass of wine tonight was just for good measure. After all, I am a professional.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The cycle of stuff

A few months ago, my landlady and I determined that my homemade Oscar the Grouch composter was too small to accommodate the quantity of food scraps the two of us were producing. It was a sad day. I loved that can. Remember when we first started composting?

Through the winter months as the lid was periodically in danger of popping off due to overstuffing, we tried everything we could think of: adding more browns, adding outdoor worms... In the end, I agreed that we needed a bigger can. (We were certainly not going to cook less, if that's what you were going to ask.) Oscar was retired on a sunny afternoon in April. He sat there out in the backyard, rinsed out and forlorn for months, casting langorous looks at our super-sized new compost bin as his own fate hung in the balance.

Then a couple of weeks ago, while scarfing down some delicious grilled food at their place, my friends Katie and Joey mentioned that they wanted to start composting at their home in Fort Totten. They had a huge yard, and more than enough food scraps and leaves to get started, they insisted, but they needed something rodent-proof. Within days, Oscar was installed in his new digs.

"Here are some pictures of your can's new home," Katie wrote, "and Eliza participating. Tried to get her to help me collect leaves. She mostly tried to eat them, but then liked dropping them in the can. Fun teaching moment -- thank you!"




No, Katie, thank YOU for giving Oscar a second life. Happy composting!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Parks and Rec

Many thanks to my friend Josh, who invited me to teach a Garden Cooking class this evening at the Deanwood Rec Center. It was a lot of fun, and part of DPR's Community Garden program: a whole season of free classes on everything from building compost bins to designing a forest garden to beekeeping to inoculating mushroom logs. My assignment was to teach folks tasty and inexpensive ways to cook the bounty of produce one can grow in a DC-area home or community garden plot (or at least find at local farmers' markets -- we're no purists).

We started out with about 5 participants, but after I finished blah-blahing and we got to cooking, the numbers steadily jumped to about 15 people. It was my favorite kind of class: low-key with a mix of ages and experience levels, but with enthusiasm across the board. After a round of hand washing, I introduced the recipes, then let folks self-select which group they'd like to work in (oh, what a change from teaching a classful of 5th-graders).

The crowd favorite may have been my favorite massaged kale salad, with well-beaten purple kale and double the usual goat cheese. That kale was massaged to within an inch of its (delicious) life by a very enthusiastic masseuse:


No, maybe the favorite was the basil-chard-pumpkin-seed pesto pasta salad, in which some attendees tried sauteed chard stems for the first time (and loved them, thank you very much):


Then again, one of the aspiring young chefs told me on her way out that she was definitely going to make the peach-tomato-black-bean salsa at home. I mean, who can resist late-summer peaches?


For your cooking pleasure, I offer the latter, one of my newest favorite recipes, here....

Tomato, Peach, and Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups cooked black beans (see below)
  • 1 small red onion, diced small 
  • 2-3 tomatoes(of any color and shape), diced small 
  • 2 peaches, cored and diced small
  • ½ small chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • Handful of herbs (mint, cilantro, and/or parsley), chopped
  • ½-1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lime (optional)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss thoroughly.

VARIATION: Leave out the beans and plop spoonfuls of this on slices of baguette for a fresh bruschetta!

TIP: How To Cook Dried Black Beans (courtesy of www.thekitchencaravan.com)
  1. Take 1 cup dried beans, place in a bowl, and cover with about double their amount in water. Soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain the beans of their soaking liquid and transfer to a pot. Cover again with at least 2-4 inches of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down and simmer covered on very low heat until the beans are cooked through and soft (about 1 hour).
  4. You can add cumin, ginger, or garlic to the cooking liquid to add flavor. Ginger and cumin both help with the digestibility of the beans, reducing gas.


Oh, heck, they were all delicious. And luckily I didn't need to schlep any leftovers back home. Now THAT is the sign of a successful class.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chocolate sweet potato truffles


One of my favorite pastimes these days is taking on too many things at one time. Take today, for instance....


Things started bright and earlier than usual with a 5th grade team meeting across town, followed by an impromptu curriculum planning meeting. By 10am, it was time to continue on to check on the garden at Tyler after the long, rainy weekend, then head to Whole Foods to shop for the cheffing gig I would spend the rest of today cooking for...sorry, I couldn't end that sentence with a preposition. In the midst of all this, I've been trying to keep up with the women's quarterfinals and men's round-of-sixteen of the U.S. Open. It's no surprise that this week's cheffing dessert wound up being something quick, easy, and shaped like a tennis ball....

Chocolate Sweet Potato Truffles
Recipe adapted from http://www.livehealtheasy.com.

Ingredients
1 large sweet potato
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP coconut oil
½ cup almond flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
for dusting: ½ cup or so of shredded coconut, ground nuts, and/or cocoa powder

Directions
  1. Wrap sweet potato in foil and bake at 400F til soft (I did about 45 mins, then let it cool in the foil, where it continued to steam and loosen the skin for easy peeling).
  2. Peel cooled sweet potato, then mash with coconut oil and honey.
  3. Stir in almond flour, cocoa powder and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate until dough is a little more of a playdough consistency – at least 30 minutes.
  5. Put your “dusting” ingredient(s) in a small bowl.
  6. Use a large spoon – I used a Tablespoon – to coop out sweet potato mixture and use your fingers to gently roll your chocolatey blob around in the dusting bowl until it forms a ball-like shape.
  7. Place rolled truffles on a plate or tray lined with waxed paper and slide them into the fridge for at least 1 hour to set (or into the freezer for 20 minutes if you happen to be a poor manager of time while as you watch the U.S. Open while trying to keep up with an ambitious personal cheffing schedule…).
  8. Enjoy!

Did I mention these are gluten-free? Yep, that means no back pain, no matter how many I eat. Luckily this batch should come out to at least a dozen or so....

Monday, August 18, 2014

Food rescue

Whenever I venture to Connecticut to visit with my dear friend Felicity, good food is involved. And every time we've wandered around New Haven together we've discovered something cool. This time, our find was an awesome art exhibit devoted to curbing food waste. (Actually, there were two great finds: we also discovered a fun, funky, comic-book-themed karaoke bar in a random alley, but that's a little off topic.)

How cool is this compost-mobile? Imagine how many vegetable scraps I could tote around on this thing!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Don't judge a book by its cover

Riding back from working at the Tyler garden this afternoon, I was sitting at a stoplight on Pennsylvania Ave when all of a sudden two rather gangsta looking guys sauntered past me in the crosswalk. The one all tatted up and carrying a length of pipe suddenly looked over at me. I froze. Then smiled nervously. (When is this damn light going to change??)

He turned to his friend, then looked back at me. His face broke into one of the sunniest smiles I've ever seen as he said, "Those are some beautiful roses, miss. You should get them in water soon."

Oh. Yes. The zinnias in my pannier. Thank you. (Exhale.)

The light changed and I found myself  smiling the whole ride home. This would not happen if I were in a car. Human interaction: another reason to be out there on a bicycle.

In other news, it seems the "sweet" peppers I transplanted earlier this summer at the garden are actually (spicy) serranos. Oh well. All the better for making some peach salsa back at the homestead while I admire my "roses" in their vase....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bikin' in the rain

Wow. I have not been out riding in a summer thunderstorm in some time. It actually felt pretty good, though it got a bit hard to see at times. I may or may not have been humming to myself during the torrential downpour that hit right as I was crossing New Jersey Avenue....

I'm bikin’ in the rain
Just bikin’ in the rain
What a nice summer feelin'
It’s not sweat, for a change
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark along my path
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for a bath
Let the stormy clouds chase
Every car from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face
I ride down the lane
As grease splashes from my chain
Just singin',
Singin' in the rain.

 Skiddin' in the rain
Skee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dwee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I'm drippy again!
I'm singin' and bikin' in the rain!

Why am I riding
And why do I sing?
Why’s this midsummer
As rainy as spring?
Why do I get up, grab Ollie, and ride,
Happy and helmeted
 With grease on my shin?
Why is each commute
A trifle to do?
Because I am bikin’ along with you.

I'm glad it was today's deluge that soaked me to the bone, rather than last night's rainstorm when Kenton and I were bound for a birthday dinner at Iron Gate in our summer finery. Oh, it was raining, so we took a cab. (Sorry, Ollie!) Oh, that meal. Worth another post all to itself. Soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

You know it's summer when...

...it's 95 degrees with 95% humidity.

...another mid-afternoon thunderstorm is brewing.

...the first ripe tomato appears in your garden!

Monday, June 9, 2014

At your service

Up until about a month ago, I'd never heard of a serviceberry. Thanks to a passing comment from the nature-loving, Michigander vice principal I work with, now it's one of my favorite plants ever. If I could resist devouring the berries the instant they're picked I might be able to come up with a recipe for them beyond "eat out of hand." They look kind of like blueberries, but I think taste closer to black currants. In short: they're delicious. And abundant right now.


According to Better Homes and Gardens -- which is not my usual go-to garden resource guide, mind you, but their snapshot in this particular instance makes a good case for why you should run out and get one to plant at home -- "Serviceberry is rare in that it offers interest in every season. It kicks off in spring with beautiful white flowers, which develop into tasty purple berries that attract birds in early summer. Or harvest the berries and use them to make delicious jams, jellies, and pies. The plant's bright green or bluish green leaves turn stunning shades of red and orange in fall, and its silvery bark offers winter appeal. You can grow serviceberry as a large shrub or small tree."

Wouldn't you know it, there are 4 of these berry-laden small trees at the school garden I maintain a few days each week. And I am clearly not the only one who loves them....


How can we get kids to eat more fruit? Plant serviceberry trees in their schoolyard. Nice work, Tyler Elementary outdoor classroom team!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Good morning kisses

It's not often that I come skipping into the kitchen on a Friday morning at 7am. (Usually, I am either still asleep then, or grumpy that I'm not still asleep then and rummaging around the fridge for a snack because of course if I'm up at that hour I'm starving.) But THIS Friday, when I woke up to get ready for a morning teaching stint, I had chocolate meringues to wake up to. Ahhh....


Before I proceed any further, let me just thank two amazing mothers: my own (who gave me the standing mixer) and my boyfriend's (who gave me the idea to make these most delicious of confections that, until last weekend, I had never heard of before). FINALLY, a good use for all of the dang egg whites I keep generating with all of these custard desserts I keep making.

I know, it's a tough life.

Speaking of tough, consider the half year of unemployment of my poor standing mixer. Since I've more or less given up gluten, and thus bread-making, he's been sitting there sulking, stashed in a large tote bag under a table in my kitchen for the better part of the past six months. But now look at him: beating egg whites and sugar and cream of tartar like a champ:


Though I was nervous, after my only other attempt at meringues a handful of years ago failed miserably, I opened up my oven last Friday morning to two trays of delicate, perfectly set cookies with melty chocolate centers. At first, I was actually a little worried they hadn't cooked all the way through -- they seemed a bit sticky on the outside, where I recalled meringues of my childhood being quite dry -- so after taste-testing one (purely to be sure that I would be the only one suffering from food poisoning, should it happen from undercooked cookies) I turned the oven on the lowest setting for about a half hour while I got ready for work. I taste-tested another one, which was a bit more firm, turned off the oven once more, and headed out the door.

The rest of the two dozen cookies disappeared over the next two days during a series of picnics, brunches, and raidings of my kitchen by a meringue-crazed boyfriend.

They were perfect. So I'm sure you'd rather I just stop yammering here and get to the recipe. Here you have it: an adaptation of the (in)famous "Forgotten Kisses."(There are some really great tips and visuals here, for those of us new to the meringue-making racket.)

Chocolate Meringues
(almost foolproof)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
  • 3-4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (er, so, like half of your 1/4 tsp spoon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar, finely ground in your coffee grinder (and if it comes out a little coffee-flavored, well then, enjoy the mocha meringues!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or peppermint extract, which I am to try next)
  • ½-1 bag Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips

Directions

Set racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and frothy, about 20 seconds.

Add the cream of tartar and salt; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and soft peaks form, 45-60 seconds.

Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until glossy and stiff, 4-6 minutes.

Beat in the vanilla extract, then fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Use two spoons to drop heaping tablespoons on the prepared baking sheets about an inch apart. (They don't really spread, so you can put 'em quite close together if you're short on space.)


Place the cookies in the oven, shut the door and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven for at least 8 hours or overnight to cook.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container…in you can resist eating them all on the spot, that is.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Finders eaters

After being up to my elbows in berries yesterday -- making strawberry jam, balsamic roasted strawberry and chocolate chunk frozen custard, gin and berry cocktails, a glaze for part of a late lunch of swordfish and grilled asparagus, and of course scarfing a hearty handful of whole ones as I bustled around the kitchen -- one would think that I'd have had my fill of luscious red berries for awhile. Nope.

I'd splurged on a flat -- yes, that would be *6 quarts* -- of strawberries at the Bloomingdale farmers' market yesterday morning, and yet the discovery of one single, perfect, red berry in a planter next to the front steps as I came home this evening had me giggling like a schoolgirl. There's something special about harvesting ones I've grown myself. And getting to them before the neighborhood squirrels, I mused as I promptly popped the strawberry into my mouth. Rodents 0: Me 1. (Considerably better than last year's record -- rats 6: me 1.)

As I tell the kids at school: you need to be diligent if you want to get to the berries first. Keep an eye on those strawberry plants. They turn red, they're yours. Finders, eaters!

your friendly-neighborhood food educator

Friday, May 16, 2014

Points for cuteness


While it is true that technically my background is in secondary education, I find myself working more and more with younger kiddos. It is a different ball of wax than working with the high schoolers, with whom you can reason and debate in an organized fashion. There's more giggling, and certainly more hugging when 1st graders are involved. I remind myself that these activities are just as important as developing skills like, oh, following directions or being able to walk more than 10 feet without tripping over one's own feet. In life, you can earn points for sheer cuteness. And they do.

Last Thursday, when I was working with a preK class, one little boy "planted" his pole bean seedling by digging a 6" deep hole and burying it when I wasn't looking. I assured his flustered classroom teacher that I didn't expect all of the plants to survive, and that her student inadvertently helped to build our soil. I showed him how to plant near the soil surface "for next time" (though I'm thinking I might have this little kiddo stick to something harmless like counting lettuce plants when I am not monitoring him individually).


No, no, the photo above is of his classmate planting things just like I showed him. The bean plant grave digger will remain anonymous. Unlike the radish ripper, caught here on camera just before the act....



When a 3rd-grader's hand -- completely independent from the 3rd-grader to whom this hand was attached, he insisted -- spontaneously pulled up an under-developed radish during my after school program the other day, when we were supposedly observing our garden with our eyes, not our hands, what did I do? Yell at the kid? Chastise him? No. That never helps anyone. Pointing out that it would have been even bigger and even more delicious if he'd waited another week or two ensured that other tiny radishes nearby wouldn't suffer the same fate. And turning the "accidental" harvest into a competition whereby the best radish portrait artist got to take home the errant radish kept nearly a dozen kids focused on observational drawings for a solid 15 minutes.


Even the ones who normally have a 15-second attention span. (The lesson here? Make it a competition: even if the prize is an undersized root vegetable, they'll work for it.)


Though there were some strong contenders, in the end it was a 3-way tie... and in their typically generous fashion, the 3 winners split the tiny radish between them. And hugged me on their way out. Yep, points for cuteness.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April showers

Well, we seem to be entering monsoon season this week in our nation's capital.

Yes, I know it's good for the plants, yadda yadda, but I'm ready for more sunshine. The ducks and frogs are going to be tired of this soon, too.

On a bright note, my lettuce and spinach out on the front steps are practically exploding out of their planter. At least I won't have to break out the rowboat to secure fresh salad greens, I guess.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The eye of the beholder


I tell you, when I got an email with this photo the other day, I was beside myself. A garden bed, just filled with healthy soil and compost, mulched around the perimeter, and all ready to plant! 3 feet by 8 feet by 10 inches of pure, unadulterated garden potential. Ohhhh.

I almost swooned.

The message came from a member of the Outdoor Classroom team, part of the group that helped to construct the 8 brand spanking new raised garden beds at Tyler Elementary a couple of weekends ago. Here we are all smiley and spent from our afternoon of sod wrestling and drillplay:


And now: one ready-to-plant garden bed. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

What to plant in this very first bed? Snap peas! No, wait, spinach! Hold on: lettuce! Carrots! Radishes! Flowers! ... Maybe a row of each? Can't wait for school to reopen next week. Meanwhile, I'm spending spring break mapping out garden plans, digging up strawberry runners for transplanting, starting sweet potatoes on my kitchen windowsill, and daydreaming about warmer weather and snap peas.

Yeah, I'll probably want at least one whole bed of snap peas. I mean, the kids will.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Repeat after me

Well, folks, I finally had to have that uncomfortable conversation with my kids on Monday.

It was the final section of my 3rd grade FoodPrints class on Eating (at least) Five Fruits and Vegetables Every Day. As we reviewed students' One Day Food Journals to survey how many fruits and veggies students in the class had eaten in the previous 24 hours, students called out examples:

A handful of blueberries on my cereal! Yes.

Carrot sticks and ranch dip with my lunch! Well done.

An apple and some peanut butter for a snack! Same here, kid.

French fries! Excuse me? No. Try again. Technically potatoes are vegetables, but for our purposes, we're going to count them as starches.

But I had lots of ketchup on the fries! Excuse me??

Imagine the sound of tires screeching on asphalt. That is the sound that was in my head as I took a deep breath. All this time I thought this was an urban kitchen myth. People didn't ACTUALLY think ketchup counted as a vegetable... but apparently they did. I suppose I can't really blame the kids. They had some logic.

Ketchup is made out of tomatoes, and tomatoes are vegetables, another kiddo piped up.

Okay, class, let's be clear here. Ketchup is NOT a vegetable. It is mostly salt and corn syrup and Red Dye #5 and teeny, tiny little bit of tomato. Repeat after me: KETCHUP IS NOT A VEGETABLE.


Ketchup is not a vegetable.

Again.

Ketchup is not a vegetable!

One more time.

Ketchup is NOT a vegetable!

Good. Now let's move on to preparing our three seasonal salads...using actual vegetables.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seasonal Defective Disorder

Dear Mother Nature,

Perhaps your google calendar didn't send you the usual reminder: spring was supposed to start last Thursday.

According to the Farmers' Almanac, the last hard freeze of the season is supposed to be this Thursday. And then no more freezing temperatures until late autumn.

Just want to be sure you saw that.

Sincerely,

your friendly-neighborhood food educator

Monday, March 17, 2014

Broccoli vs. kale

It's St. Patrick's Day, so I thought I'd celebrate with something green. I wore my bright green bicycle socks on the trip back from New York City earlier today -- didn't want to get pinched on my way through the parade going on in Manhattan as I shuffled to the Bolt bus.

Speaking of green: I saw this little number as Felicity and I were leaving Claire's after a lovely lunch in New Haven this weekend. Ha!

Now, I do love kale. (If you've followed this blog for any length of time, or been to a few cooking classes I've led in recent years, you know this.) It is not a pretentious green -- my dad has even remarked on how CHEAP kale is when he buys a big bag of loose curly kale at Giant -- but this campaign is hilarious. And if hilarity helps get people thinking about eating a wider variety of healthy foods, I'm all for it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Non-traditional shepherd's pie


So I'm doing a little personal cheffing these days -- cooking for a few friends who appreciate well made food, but have little time to shop for and prepare it. It's nice to have a little extra income, and because they are adventurous and have relatively few dietary restrictions, I have free reign with the menu each week, basing what I make on the freshest ingredients I can find and any recipes that tickle my fancy.

Yesterday, I made one of my favorite dishes thus far -- a variation on Shepherd's Pie, in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities. Okay, well, maybe St. Patrick would turn up his nose at my version, since it does not, in fact, contain any potatoes. The recipe is an adaptation of one I found while sorting through my seemingly endless pile of old magazines, in this case the October 2012 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. The various components were so tasty as I was putting things together, that I made a couple extra little pielets (yes, I just invented a word) for Kenton and me. It's a bit of work to make, but the recipe makes 6-8 portions, so would be nice for a fancy dinner party.

Butternut and Chicken Sausage Shepherd's Pie

Ingredients
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" chunks
  • 2 TBSP butter at room temp
  • 3 TBSP olive oil + a bit more for greasing and cooking
  • 1/4 cup or so freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large chicken sausages, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 1 pint canned/crushed tomatoes
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 large carrots, diced


Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Use a bit of olive oil to grease whatever dishes you're using (2 pie dishes or 6-8 ramekins, say) to bake the assembled Shepherd's Pie in, and place greased dishes on a cookie sheet.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a sprinkle of sale and the butternut chunks, then cover and cook til squash is tender (15 minutes or so). Drain, then mash with butter, 3 TBSP olive oil, and parmesan. Set aside.

In a large skillet, cook onions and a splash for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add sausage, mushrooms, and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or so until sausage bits are cooked through. Stir in broth, tomatoes, carrots, peas, and rosemary, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until liquid is a bit reduced and things are smelling very fragrant.

You may want to open a window at this point -- things are getting quite hot near the stove -- and while you're at it, maybe add a few splashes of red wine to the simmering meat and veggies. Go ahead and pour yourself a glass. I mean, the bottle's already open....

Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste (I did a few big grinds of black pepper and just a tiny sprinkle of salt), then divide among greased dishes. Top each dish with the mashed butternut mixture (and chopped scallions if you want to get fancy), then place on cookie sheets.

Bake, uncovered, in oven for 15-20 minutes, until top is lightly browned.

(If you have a second glass of wine and forget the pielets in your oven for a bit longer, they are no worse for the wear. They also store, unbaked, covered with tinfoil in the fridge for a few days with no problem.)

I'm still waiting for the elves to show up and do some of the dishes....


Monday, March 3, 2014

A feast for some of the other senses


It's not every day that a celebrity chef performs at one's local farmers' market. It's nearly as rare as weather that is 55F and sunny in Washington, DC these days. Kenton and I basked in the wonderfulness of both anomalies yesterday.

As I picked up bunches of kale and beets, tubs of yogurt, loads of butternut squashes and potatoes and sunchokes, we began to notice flocks of folks in chef coats chattering in Spanish all around us. A culinary school field trip, I figured. One of them looked kind of familiar, but I couldn't place him. ("Watch more of the Food Network," I can practically hear my students suggesting. They know *all* of the celebrity chefs.) When my shopping buddy and I made our way to the information tent, I learned from one of the market volunteers that there was going to be "a surprise" of some sort that morning, and moments later....


Is that percussion I heard just then? Some rhythmic tapping on... could those be pots and pans? Was that a flute? Cellos?? Did I just overhear a french horn at the farmers' market?! Okay, that was definitely a trombone.... Kenton and I followed the music toward where a crowd had gathered, and there was Jose Andres, standing near a marimba made of water-filled glass bottles, smiling broadly while conducting an orchestra of chefs from his various restaurants. What fun: a flash mob chef concert! We stayed for a few songs, and Kenton kindly snapped these pics. Not that I think they should quit their day jobs -- I've tasted some of their (delicious) work at Oyamel, Jaleo, and America Eats -- but those chefs were pretty good for non-professional musicians.

What a delightful surprise on a surprisingly delightful morning. Hoping this is a sign of impending good weather at last, and other fun market surprises to come!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Worms, are you there?

I know some of you have been holding your collective breath, waiting for an update on my fancypants composting nighcrawlers. Well, I just checked on them this weekend, and again this afternoon. I'm happy to report that our European-bred worms -- hardier, I was told, than their red wiggling brethren -- appear to be happily squirming around in the top foot or so of the outdoor compost bin. The scrap level has even visibly gone down a bit. Yes, in spite of our recent flurry (ha, ha) of snow showers over the past week, they seem to have settled in.

Hoping they can pick up the pace on the food scrap eating soon, though: I've been making veggie stock like a madwoman and need 'em to start eating things down asap. I'll need good garden soil soon. They are supposed to eat (and poop out) their body weight in food scraps each day, so with a solid pound of worms, they should be able to catch up fairly quickly. (They'd better not go on a diet, like my former roommates and one of my ex-boyfriends simultaneously did in the middle of an apple dessert baking frenzy I went through a handful of years ago. Now that sucked. Well, I suppose diets do, generally speaking.)

Listen here, wormies, forget about your figures. Your job is to eat as MUCH and as OFTEN as possible.

Or else we're going to go fishing when the weather warms up.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pickle me this...

Yesterday was just beautiful. Still a bit cool for my taste, with highs in the low 50s, but nice and sunny, and so, compared to recent weather, rather balmy. So Kenton and I decided to bike the 5 miles or so -- nearly all uphill, thank you very much -- from my place to the Takoma Park farmers' market. I was on the lookout for produce to pickle for my workshop next weekend, and I did leave with a pannier filled with local turnips. I was also tasked with bringing some salad greens for brunch at my dear friend Susan's place, where we'd be heading after the market. I don't know how the chocolate pudding got into my bag. Must've been Kenton's doing.

It's a good thing our ride home was 6 miles of mostly downhill after the double-fondue luncheon. Susan broke out first the smoked salmon and cream cheese, and then the cheese fondue with fresh bread, and then the chocolate and fresh fruit fondue, with plenty of chilled white wine throughout. Lordy, was that a tasty meal. And my salad was well received: a bowl of tender mixed greens, toasted walnuts, and pickled grapes with a curry vinaigrette. (What, like I was just going to bring some greens? C'mon.) It would've been nice with a few little blobs of chevre, but considering the cheesy nature of the bulk of our meal, I opted to leave that out this first go-round.

Pickled grapes?? Yes. I'd been thinking about these since I first heard of pickled grapes at last year's Rooting DC pickling session, so I decided to tinker with a few recipes. This one is adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  Delicious in salads (as proven yesterday), or alongside roast chicken, likely tasty in a chicken salad, and definitely as a nibbly alternative to olives (as proven this evening as I type and try not to drip mustard-anise solution on the keyboard).

Pickled Grapes


Combine in an 8oz jar:

  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard seed
  • 4-5 whole black peppercorns
  • ½ star anise, crushed
  • large pinch salt
  • (you can add a spoonful of sugar if you like, but I find the grapes themselves have plenty)
Once dissolved -- you can speed up the process by simmering the solution in a small pot on the stove before pouring into your jar -- add:

  • grapes (about ¼ lb), preferably seedless, stems removed
  • ½ cinnamon stick
Add additional apple cider vinegar as needed to be sure all grapes are submerged. Seal and refrigerate for 2 days before using.

I'll be leading another session on pickle making at this weekend's Rooting DC conference, but this time along with my favorite refrigerator pickles, I'll have stuff to make these unusual but tasty pickled grapes, as well as lemon rosemary pickled green beans (that I suspect would make for kickin' bloody mary stir sticks...).



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Look what I did!

The adorable kiddos I work with have been cooped up by cold weather for too long lately.

When I told the kids in my section of VeggieTime this afternoon that we'd be having our first garden day of the season, the high-pitched squeals of excitement coming from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders moved like a wave through the group. Suddenly everyone had to use the bathroom, though I suspect some of the girls needed to check their hair since they saw me toting a camera today.

"Okay, okay, let's make sure everyone who needs to use the restroom does that first, then I'm going to need some help getting all of this stuff back outside. Hey, stop fiddling with that trowel -- put it back. Now, let's hope it doesn't decide to rain again." I crossed my fingers, and we piled into the elevator with two carts filled with compost, seeds, gloves, and garden tools. (It never ceases to amaze me how exciting using the school elevator is for elementary schoolers. Why is that?)

We made our way out to the furthest two raised garden beds and I explained the first task: remove last season's dead plants. Boy did they love pulling things out of the beds.


With minimal training, I think some of them could earn at least a silver medal if unearthing plants ever becomes an Olympic sport. (I've heard talk of yoga making it into the Olympics one day, so you never know.) I mean, there were some BIG roots in there. One in particular took six different people loosening things up to finally get it out! "Look what I did!" I heard from across the garden. "No, look what I did!" And another. And another. Here is the victorious team of root pullers -- they're tougher and more determined than those beguiling smiles might suggest:


By the handful or the armload, all of our plant scraps went down the hill, through the snow and puddles, and into the compost bins:



Then it was time to mix in some aged compost and get planting!


If I was surprised by how much they enjoyed pulling up plants, I was downright astounded by how much they loved digging, finding any excuse to use a trowel or a hand fork to... well... to move soil around. Most of it stayed in the beds. And we planted a few packets of seeds and watered everything using recycled milk carton "watering cans."


In a month or two, with decent weather, periodic watering, and a little luck, we should have some spinach, kale, beets, carrots, and swiss chard to nibble on. Mmmm, eating: my favorite part of gardening.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Falling off the gluten wagon


Nothing like a trip to New Orleans to knock even the most disciplined eater off the gluten-free wagon. I could only hold out for so long, which turned out to be approximately one hour, as the friendly hostess of the airbnb home we stayed at had baked us fresh oatmeal cookies to welcome us for the long weekend. It was all over. Po' boys. Beer. Beignets. Seriously, who could resist cafe au lait and beignets in The Big Easy? Well, the gluten gluttony did end eventually, and after a weekend of eating and drinking and biking around in 70-degree days and listening to live jazz late into the night, Kenton and I returned to chilly DC, and I returned to a gluten-free diet. Mostly.

I mean, today was yet another snow day, and I needed something to go with my soup....


Well, maybe tomorrow I'll swear off gluten again. Or maybe the day after, just in case there's a tasty Valentine's dessert on the menu.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Waiting for the worms

 

About a month ago, my landlady and I determined that between us we seemed to be creating a bit more compost than our single Oscar the Grouch can out back could handle. Okay, a LOT more. I suggested that we simply get a second can -- no, not only because I'd get to let loose again with the drill. Jacky had a better idea: worms.

Now, our household's curious and tenacious beagle population would not allow us to consider an indoor worm bin. And I'd always thought that you could only have red wigglers in your outdoor compost bins in mild weather -- certainly not during extreme cold (like, say, the past few weeks) or hot weather. I didn't want to get some happy wigglers and have 'em freeze to death mid munch, leaving us $40-50 poorer and with the same amount of compostables as we started with. I said as much to Jacky. Luckily, my landlady was not to be foiled so easily: after some research we learned that there are some hardy outdoor composting worms that would do just fine in our chilly DC winters. So a few days before the Martin Luther King holiday, we put in an order for 500 European Nightcrawlers and started stockpiling special kitchen scraps to welcome our hungry new arrivals in 1-3 business days.

We waited.

And waited.

Scraps continued to pile up.

And finally, after the first batch, delayed by snow and federal holidays, was delivered to the wrong address, and the replacement worm package, complete with the traditional misspelled name but at least the correct address, dispatched the following week, Jacky was elated to have our box of first-class-mailed wormies handed to her by our local postal worker yesterday afternoon. (The mailwoman was visibly weirded out when she learned what was in the box she'd been toting around in her messenger bag. It seems this company doesn't label their shipments as "LIVE WORMS" like my previous supplier did, but they were well protected -- as was the mail carrier -- by the sturdy, but breathable bag inside.)

 
This morning, before I headed out to teach, Jacky and I had a ceremonial installation of our new neighbors.



 
Our European Nightcrawlers must be Scandinavian. It's the only way I can fathom them not being phased by this weather and immediately starting to chomp away....

We covered them up with our special welcome scraps -- avocado skins, butternut squash peels, shredded crossword puzzles, and some of their other known favorites -- and left them to eat long and prosper. And multiply, we hope.

p.s.- Apologies to all of you Pink Floyd fans who ended up reading this blogpost by mistake (though I will say it's decidedly more hopeful than what you were originally seeking).


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another snow day??

I remember back when I was a regular classroom teacher in New York City and, overworked and underslept, nearly every winter morning I would secretly pray for a snow day as I leaned across the bed to turn off my alarm at zero dark thirty. I usually spent those rare, blessed snow days catching up on grading rather than sleep, but I wasn't all work and no play: there was the occasional Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie marathon (while grading essays).

These days, as a part-time food educator, I'm chomping at the bit to get back into the classroom after a slow few weeks of work around the holidays. My first two days of teaching in the new year have been canceled due to snow. Boo. Though the unplowed bike lanes and off-street paths are too treacherous for riding (and, frankly, the sidewalks are almost as sketchy for walking to and from the metro), I'm not so secretly hoping school *isn't* canceled again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is snow art to admire in the neighborhood, at least.